Thursday, June 30, 2011

C.S. Lewis on Perseverance

"God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them." C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

The first chapter of James states,
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work in order for you to be mature and complete." (James 1:2-4).
What matters in life, is not what you achieve, but rather what you willingly endure.  We will all achieve various heights of achievement in life. In a very real sense it is irrelevant to God how much we achieve.  This is vitally important to remember.  We are saved purely by grace, there is nothing we can do to gain more favor with God.

No, the more interesting thing to God is our willingness to submit and to endure hard times. Just as we will all achieve different successes in life, we will all be handed different degrees of trials in life.  It is not helpful or useful to compare what others are given to endure.  Rather, what we each need to do is to submit our will, even when it means walking through a dark period in life.  What matters is our willingness to endure.  

Have you ever known someone who willingly suffered on your behalf?  Perhaps it was a parent who worked two jobs to provide for you.  Perhaps it was a friend who took money out of his savings to help you pay your rent.  Maybe it was a relative who willingly gave up a kidney for you.  Maybe it was not so dramatic, but a friend who made a special sacrifice to visit you when you were down or sick.  How do we feel toward such people?  Are we not overwhelmed with a feeling of being loved?

It is the same with God. If we are given difficulties in life, and we endure those difficulties, how do you think God feels toward us?  Is He not extra proud of us?  This is especially true if we endure with "a smile on our face", putting our faith and trust in Him.  We will be given special rewards for gracefully enduring trials.

I am not one of those who will tell you to just grin and bear it. If you are going through a hard time right now, I know it hurts, I know it is hard.  Yet, it is worth it to trust Him with it.  If you do endure and you do submit to Him, He will reward you greatly.  As it says later in the first chapter of James, 
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him."
There is no greater way to show God that we love Him than to willingly bear our sufferings, trusting that He will work things out for our benefit and His glory.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On Suffering, Free Will, and Pinocchio

"Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself."  C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
God created us to be the objects of His love.  In order to love us He had to create us with free will because  to love or be loved one must have a choice.  In order to have free will, the option to choose badness must exist.  And, because God is just, if we choose badness, it will cause suffering.

Gepetto created Pinocchio out of his desire to have a son.  Before Pinocchio became a boy, Gepetto's love for Pinocchio was a love not really realized.  Once Pinocchio became a boy, he had free will, including the will to do wrong.  Pinocchio choose to do wrong, and he suffered because of it.

If Gepetto really loved Pinocchio wouldn't he have protected him from suffering?

The simply answer is, "no."  In order for Gepetto to fully love Pinocchio and for Pinocchio to experience Gepetto's love, Pinocchio had to become a boy.  In order for Pinocchio to truly be alive, he had to be a boy with a free will.    And once free will is involved, it necessarily entails suffering, because the alive person will, at times, choose to do wrong.  

It is no different with God.  In order for us to really be alive, we must have free will.  In order for us to truly be able to feel and express love, we must a free will.  And if we have a free will, there naturally will be suffering because, at times, we will choose to do wrong.

It is not God's fault that there is suffering.  Suffering exists because we have a free will.  We must have a free will in order for us to be truly alive, and to truly feel God's love.    

Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Relying On God Has To Begin All Over Again Every Day..."

"Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done..." C.S. Lewis, A Letter to Mrs. L.
The twin evils of pride and selfishness are an epidemic common to all mankind that is impossible to eradicate.  We must daily take our medicine to keep them in check.  There is only one cure and it is submission to the Lordship of Christ.  It is to be willing to daily take up our cross and to follow Him.  It requires constant vigilance; sometimes we even have to do it more than daily.  We cannot even take pleasure in having licked it because once we begin to pat ourselves on the back, we are back to square one. 

  Fighting pride does not involve degrading ourselves.  Rather, it is simply a realization of our complete and utter dependence on God.  It is an acknowledgment that all that is good in my life has come from Him. It is knowing that He is the source of everything in my life, even my next breath.

Pride, the refusal to submit to God, is the first sin and the most deadly sin.  It is not to be trifled with.  What are the biggest sources of pride in your life?  

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"No Man Knows How Bad He Is Till He Has Tried Very Hard To Be Good."

"No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good."
If anybody doubts the truth of this statement, one need only look at Lindsay Lohan, or Arnold Schwarzenegger,  or Tiger Woods.  Each of these individuals had everything that the world tells us we need to be satisfied -- fulfilling careers, beautiful bodies, beautiful wives, more money than they know what to do with.  Yet, try as they might, they cannot be good for any length of time. Mankind is naturally and majestically self-destructive.  If left to himself, man will end up killing  himself.

Yet, the road to goodness is not through self-discipline or will.  The road to goodness is not even necessarily education.  So often we know what is right, but we still do the wrong thing.  It is easy to point the finger at Lindsay or Arnold or Tiger, but am I so different?

People who believe they are healthy will not seek a doctor.  People who do not know that they are sinful, will not seek a Savior. Yet the evidence for the need of a Savior is everywhere.  An attempt to be good for any length of time will make that evident.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Nothing Is Yet In Its True Form"

"Nothing is yet in its true form." C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces
This statement from C.S. Lewis is both encouraging and scary at the same time.  Change can be exciting and terrifying.  On one hand, it is encouraging that some things will be changed.  I will be changed, slowly more conformed into the image of Christ.  Also, the sickness and troubles of this life will be gone.  The struggles of this life will be resolved; the pain will be gone.  Yet, change can also be scary.  Often I am content where I am at, I am comfortable.  I do not want to change.

The point is we cannot cling to anything too tightly.  To use another C.S. Lewis analogy, too often we are content to play in the mud puddle, when God wants to take us to play at the sea shore.  God had great plans for you, as long as you are willing to stop clinging to mud.  

We cannot cling to relationships; they will end or change.  We cannot hold on to happiness; it will invariably slip away.  We also cannot hold on to sorrow or pain; if we hold on to it too long, it will kill us, figuratively or literally.  We cannot trust in our wealth; it is fleeting.

There are only two constants in our lives.  God is our Rock, a Shield, and a Wall behind which we can hide.  He is the only One who can truly say, "I will never leave or forsake You."  He does not change and He is faithful.  We can also depend on His Word and the promises in it: 
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." (Luke 21:33, NASB) 
The only things in life we can trust completely are God and His Word.  Everything else will, in the end pass away and fail us.

We cannot lift our hands up to God unless our hands are open.  If we do not open our hands up and give whatever is in them to God, He will pry them open.

My fellow believer, do not cling to this life or this world too tightly.  Be in the world, but not of it.  God is not done with you.  Do not look behind at the world.  Instead, embrace His transforming power in your life.  Be encouraged and welcome change in your life; have confidence that, 
"He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6, NASB).
What say you?  What are you holding on to too tightly?  Are you resisting change?  Does it scare you?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

We May Ignore, But We Can Nowhere Evade, The Presence Of God

"We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God." C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm.
There is no doubt that, for some reason, we tend to try and ignore God.  A lot of times we ignore God by the loudness in our lives.  Often we ignore God by the business in our lives.  Sometimes, our arrogance causes us to ignore God.  At times, perhaps we are angry or disappointed with God, so we pretend that He is not there.

It is foolishness to the core.  Yes, we all do it, but it is pure silliness.  Why do we try and ignore our Creator?  I believe it is one of two reasons, either it is because we do not believe God is good or because we are prideful. It also does not work.  Our God is everywhere.  He is beside you when you are lonely.  He is listening to you when you are angry.  He holds your tears when you cry.  He is partying with you when you are celebrating.  And yes, He is watching us when we do things we know we shouldn't.

God may allow us to try and ignore Him for a time, but at some point, every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that He is God.  The sooner we do that, the better.

It saddens His heart. We were created to fellowship with Him, to share life with Him.  He wants nothing more than for us to acknowledge Him, and His rightful place in our lives.  He wants to walk with us, laugh with us, cry with us, and help us with our burdens.  Why would we refuse His help.

We need to believe, truly believe the following two passages:

1.  Psalm 139:7-16

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

2. Romans 8:38-39
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which isin Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Human Intellect Is Incurably Abstract"

"Human intellect is incurably abstract." C.S. Lewis, Myth Became Fact, World Dominion.

We live in a concrete world, full of stark realities.  There are metaphysical realities, like the computer I am typing on, the chair I am sitting on, and the roof under which I am currently under.  There are stark emotional realities that are all too familiar -- the anxiety of a small bank account, the heartbreak of a broken relationship, or the longing of loneliness.  In the midst of all this, however, there is also, as C.S. Lewis says, an incurable sense of something else.  What does all this reality mean?  What is the purpose? Why is this happening?

This sense of the abstract, that there is something beyond us that we cannot see, is what separates us from animals.  It is peculiarly human. God has instilled it inside of us. And this sense of the abstract, the thing beyond us, can only be filled by God.  Blaise Pascal describes it likes this: 
“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus”.
When our reality crashes down on us too hard, because of this sense of needing something outside of us, given our fallen nature, we tend to fill that void with unhealthy things -- things like food...or alcohol...or sex...or choose-your-vice here.  Such things may take our eyes off our reality for a short time; long term, however, these vices will have disastrous results. No, God has created you in such a way, that He is the only one who can fill that void.  

God is abstract who gives meaning to the stark realities of life.

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Before Your Face Questions Die Away. What Other Answer Would Suffice?"

"I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?" C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces.
If you are at all like me, often when life overwhelms you, you become somewhat frantic, looking everywhere for a solution and a reason for the pain.  If we remain in such a state for any length of time, it will begin to damage our souls.  I believe that God, in His grace, generally allows us to know the reason for our suffering.  Yet, there are clearly times when we can not discern the reason for our pain, and never will.  At times like this, what is a person to do?  If we take C.S. Lewis's advice here, we are simply to sit back and gaze in wonder at the greatness of God, despite not hearing the answer to our question.

This quote reminds me of Psalm 46.  In that Psalm, the sons of Korah talk about, "the earth changing", "mountains slipping into the sea", and "nations making an uproar."  Yet, the Psalmists call upon us to, "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10).

The clearest example of this is Job.  Job suffered devastation upon devastation.  The vast majority of the book is Job asking, "Why? What have I done?"  God never answers Job. Essentially, God tells Job to, "be quiet and know that I am God."  And Job's response? "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees Thee; therefore, I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:5-6).

As our world is falling down around us, if we remain in the anxiety for too long, we will damage our hearts. Instead, even when we do not understand why something is happening, we need to step back and remind ourselves that God is on the throne.  As we gaze at that throne, our hearts become still, and the thing so of this world, "will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace."

This is something that I constantly need to remind myself.  How about you?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

God As Our Father

"We want not so much a Father but a grandfather in heaven, a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, 'What does it matter so long as they are contented?" C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.
As C.S. Lewis points out, we too often wish that God were a benevolent Grandfather rather than a watchful Father. We wish God would spoil us like grandfathers do, not discipline us like Fathers. Yet, if we think about it, rather than feel it with our heart, we will realize how much better fathers are than grandfathers.  Fathers are with us day in and day out, helping us with our homework, dressing our wounds, and, even, keeping us in line.  In contrast, we see grandfathers once in a awhile, and they bring gifts or a warm hug, but they are not responsible for the tough jobs associated with raising a child.

We do not always like it.  We have tendency to rebel against the firm hand of a Father.  We resent being sent to our room or the belt on the backside.  But oh, how we need it!  And oh how we need God's guidance and discipline in our lives, in addition to the benevolent gifts He does give us. 

The route to true contentment rather than fleeting happiness is through suffering and discipline.  The person who has endured the hard times has a greater capacity to enjoy the good times, as well as a greater ability to be happy in every circumstance.  If God never allowed tough things in our lives, ultimately we would never experience true contentment.  

On this Father's Day, let's celebrate our fathers, but let's also celebrate God as our Father who never leaves or forsakes us, and who loves us enough to do the tough work of disciplining us.

Friday, June 17, 2011

'Mercy, detached from Justice, grows unmerciful"

"Mercy, detached from Justice, grows unmerciful." C.S Lewis, The Horse and His Boy.
Mercy is always good, right?  How is it that mercy can become bad?  This quote by C.S. Lewis is such a deep truth it is hard to know where to begin.

It is possible to be too merciful, that is, mercy must be tempered by other attributes, including judgement.  Mercy alone will result in harming the recipient; the recipient will never learn or grow, but will be stuck in a pitiful state.

God is a God of love; but His love is tempered (dare I say that?) by other attributes such as wrath and judgement.  If He were only a benevolent grandfather who only ever protected us from everything, we would never grow and become strong.  It is true that He gives us good gifts, "Every good and perfect gift comes from above, falling down from the Father of heavenly lights." (James 1:17)  Yet, truly good gifts that are good for us, come not only in a benevolent form, but also in the form of judgement and wrath and pain and suffering.

I know that I struggle with this. I have a friend who deserves much mercy; he has had a very rough life.  I want to show love to him and help him grow. I also do not want to be an enabler; I want him to be healthy and develop into a person of character. In order to do that, I struggle to find the balance between mercy, love, and "judgement."

Before leaving this subject, it is important to emphasize one thing, namely, the Church has a bad reputation in the world as being overly judgmental.  The Church must renew its commitment to love; to being the hands and feet of Christ.  After all, "they shall know we are Christians by our love." (a paraphrase of John 13:35).

Yet, all attributes, even "good attributes", must be tempered, otherwise, as this quote from C.S. Lewis highlights, ultimately left unchecked it will have a devastating impact on the recipient.  It is a difficult balance to achieve.  Join me in praying that we can achieve this tricky balance, both in our personal lives and as the Christian community, because it is only through the direction of the Holy Spirit that we shall achieve true love and mercy tempered with judgment and discernment.

What say you? Do you struggle achieving this balance?  Is there a secret to achieving it?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

On The Corruption Of Even Noble Acts

Thoughts undertaken for God's sake...are continued as if they are an end in themselves, and then as if our pleasure in thinking were the end, and finally as if our price or celebrity were the end."  C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.
How true this is!  Given our depravity, virtually every noble action will, in the end, be corrupted.  For example, reading my Bible daily is a good practice.  As C.S. Lewis notes, however, if I am not careful, my daily Bible reading will become an end in and of itself.  In other words, I will read my Bible for its own sake, rather than to hear from God.  I will begin to find pleasure, not in hearing from God, but in studying the Bible.  Then as my knowledge increases, it will become a source of pride.  The distinction is subtle, but important.  The activity of reading one's Bible is indeed a noble activity. Yet, it is so easy for the noble activity to become corrupted because we have such a tendency towards aggrandizement.

The activity need not be reading your Bible every day. Virtually every good deed can be corrupted by this tendency.  Perhaps it is visiting the old or sick.  Am I visiting them because I want to show love towards them? Or am I visiting them because of how it makes me feel?  Am I giving that gift because I truly want to help the child in Haiti?  Or am I giving that gift because it absolves some guilt?  Do I pray in public because I have to, or do I do it so others will hear my beautiful prayer?

Pride is the first and deadliest sin. Indeed, in some form, all sin is pride. It is wanting what I want and not what God wants. It is putting myself on the throne of my life, instead of God.

Pride is valuing self more than we should.  We are all valuable, but I am not more valuable than you and you are not more valuable than me.  Any value that we have is because of Christ and His workings in our life.

There is no easy pill to rid oneself of pride.  It requires constant vigilance because of its tendency to raise its ugly head.  It will even raise its head in so-called "noble acts."    

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Heart Never Takes The Place of The Head...

"The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it."
This is a powerfully true statement by C.S. Lewis.  Modern Christianity overemphasizes the role of the heart and and devalues the mind.  We tend to trust too much in our feelings, and allow our feelings to direct how we think.  It should be exactly the opposite, that is, our mind should direct our feelings.

Allowing our heart to direct our lives can lead to ruin. As it says in Jeremiah, 
"The heart is more deceitful than all else; and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9 (NASB).  
We all hope and look forward to warm feelings of closeness with our Lord.  Yet, what does our heart tell us when life is difficult?  If you are like me, your heart will tell you that God is not listening, or that He does not love me, or that He is not protecting me like He said He would.  These feelings are natural and part of being fallen people; however, these feelings are not to be listened to.  They are false and if listened to, they will lead us astray.

I want to be clear.  We are not to ignore our feelings. Burying feelings of anger or betrayal or anxiety will have extremely unhealthy consequences.  Instead of ignoring negative feelings, we should confront them head on... with our mind.  

Do you want to change how you are feeling about something?  All transformation begins with the mind.  
"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your min, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2 (NASB, emphasis added). 
In a very real sense, transformation occurs when we confront our feelings and make a decision with our mind that our feelings are incorrect; make a decision to trust God and His word, instead of my heart.

I hope you are feeling good right now -- good about life and close to God.  If you are not, however, do not despair and do not listen to your heart. Instead began to use your mind and focus on the promises in His word.  It will change your life.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Books on psychology or economics or politics are as continuously metaphorical as books of poetry or devotion.

As Pilate would say, "What is truth?"  Or, as I would say, "Where can we find truth?"  

In this quote, C.S. Lewis indicates that there is as much truth in poetry as there is in psychology or economics or politics.  Certainly, I can understand the critique on politics given the general acceptance of how politicians tend to bend or ignore the truth.  Economists have great theories on where and how the market is going to go, but, truth be told, often they are simply trying to read tea leaves.  Psychologists...not sure anyone could argue there is truth to be be found in psychology.  Not there isn't truth in any of those disciplines, just as there is also truth, at times,  in poetry.  The truth in each discipline, however, is incomplete and elusive.  

Where is there definitive truth upon which we can consistently and always hang our hats?  Is it found in science?  The interesting thing about science is that it is an absolute search for truth and it does arrive at "laws" which are truth. It is not a complete truth however; science has nothing to say on issues of ethics for example.

Can we find truth in other people?  Again, people can be "true", but not always and not necessarily consistently.  Can we find truth in ourselves?  I do not see how anyone could seriously say, "Yes"; how often do we lie to ourselves?

Obviously, there is only one Truth who is true in all circumstances and in every situation.  The first chapter of the Gospel of John uses the nomenclature of "Word" for Jesus Christ, but which could also be translated, "Truth".
"In the beginning was the [Truth], and the [Truth] was with God, and the [Truth] was God."
The heart-stopping reality is that that Truth came and dwelt among us, so that we can know It.
"And the [Truth] became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."  John 1:14
Ultimate truth can be found in no other discipline or name than Jesus Christ.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


All joy...emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings.

Here, C.S. Lewis is emphasizing that for the Christian, true joy or peace or fulfillment will never be had here on earth.  Perhaps a better way of saying that is that while we may have true joy or peace, we will never have complete joy or peace.  Even at our best moments, this sod is only a "foretaste of heaven divine."  Even the best relationships are only a shadow of the Trinity and what our relationship will be with Christ.  Even a moment of pure joy here on earth, like the birth of a child, is tempered by pain or grief.

It is comforting when we are struggling that this is not our final destination.  When we are shedding tears, we look forward to when we will shed no tears.  When we are sick we look forward to being in a place where there is no disease.  When we are oppressed, we look forward to when we will be completely vindicated.

Yes, as C.S. Lewis points out here, it is also when we are experiencing positive emotions that, for the Christian, a longing is awoken.  I remember clearly when my first child was born.  The miracle of birth amazing.  I remember very clearly thinking, "this child is only ten seconds old, but my heart is bursting with love for him, so much so that I would gladly give my life for him."  My next thought was, "Wow!  If I love him so much, how much more does God love me?".

Yes, Christian, you are not yet home.  On one hand, that is comforting because of all the hatred, disease, and pain we see in this world. On the other hand, awakens a yearning in us for heaven where we can look forward to pure love, joy, and peace.

Paul recognized this in his letter to the Philippians,
"But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary...." Philippians 1:23-24.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Hatred obscures all distinctions.
In this quote, C.S. Lewis highlights the most powerful and destructive emotions that mankind can experience.  It is all encompassing and blinding.  It makes it impossible to see any goodness or any nuance.  Hatred depersonalizes the object of the hatred, making people not even human.  Thus, slave owners do not even view their slaves as people.  Germans believed that the Jews were sub-human.  

But how does that apply to us; I mean, as a good Christian, we never experience hate right?  We  must never forget that many major evils of our history were generally committed in the name of God, including slavery and the Holocaust.  But how does it apply to you and me?  We don't hate, do we?  For example, I don't hate my ex-wife for the pain she inflicted on me, do I (substitute ex-wife here for the person who has inflicted the most pain on you)?  I didn't hate Osama bin Laden while he was alive, did I?  We don't hate Harold Camping for the idiocy of his May 21st wrong-headed prediction, do we? Unfortunately, I think the human condition is to hate.  It has no place in the church or in our lives.  It is the most destructive of all human emotions.

I do not know how to personalize this for us.  This emotion is so scary that we will never admit that this is an issue in our lives.  Yet, the evidence of it is everywhere, even in the church.  It is rooted in selfishness.  As James says,
"What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?  You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.  You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:1-4.
Let us redouble our commitment to love each, to serving each, and to selflessness.  Let us redouble our submission to the Lordship of Christ. Let us, as a community be known by our love, not our hate.

Friday, June 10, 2011


All that we call human history--money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery--[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
Unfortunately, this quote from C.S. Lewis speaks of a profound truth, namely, that, if left to ourselves, we choose the wrong thing. Plato says it this way, 
"Wars and revolutions and battles are due simply and solely to the body and its desires."
Finally, the book of James says it like this:
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?  James 4:1
Why is that?  I have such a tendency to look out only for my own interests.  I do not believe I am alone in that?  And why do I build walls around myself?  Why do I eat things that are bad for me?  Why do I have to force myself to exercise? Why do I idolize people with poor character just because they can dunk a basketball?  Why is it hard for me to forgive? Why do I not always do what I know I should do?

The good news is that we are not alone if you feel as I do; the Apostle Paul felt the same.  In Romans, Chapter 7, he writes:

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:18-25.
We are all wretched.  As unpopular as it is to say this, we are all slaves to something.  If Christ is not my Master, then I am a slave to sin.  The ironic thing is that the things that we naturally desire will ultimately destroy us.  "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life...." Romans 6:23.

I am not writing this to make you feel bad about yourself; we are all fallen people.  Rather, if you are reading this and you see that your choices are leading you down a destructive road, as they naturally will, then the good news is that there is Someone who has come so that you may have life, both in this world and the next.

For those of you reading this who are Christians, what choices are you making in life that show that you have not submitted completely to Christ?  What choices are you still making that are, ultimately, destructive?

Thursday, June 9, 2011


It's so much easier to pray for a bore than to go and see one.
Loneliness is an epidemic in our culture.  I believe that the growth of "social media" (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is a direct result of rampant loneliness.  People have a basic need to feel wanted, to feel important, to feel like they are important to someone. Loneliness is not harmful because the person is by herself; loneliness incorporates so much more, including feelings of abandonment, of being unneeded, and, at its root, unloved.  The effects of loneliness are dramatic including serious depression and even suicide.

As a single, I experience this emotion periodically.  That feeling of dread is an unspeakable evil. Singles are not alone (pun intended) in their struggle with loneliness.  Other groups who struggle with loneliness are the elderly, the sick, and, even, the famous or the very successful. It is also a major source of trauma for pastors, who feel isolated with no one to that truly is their friend.

As mentioned above, social media is effective in combating loneliness – to a point.  As today’s C.S. Lewis quote reminds us, there is no substitute for “face time”.

I am not writing this post to the lonely person.  You know what you need to do.  Sometimes we each have to force ourselves to interact with people.  You know that, but sometimes your depression holds you back.

No, the real purpose of this post is that each of us knows someone who is lonely.  Reach out today and spend some time with them.  By doing so you will make a much bigger difference in their life than if you said a prayer for them (am I allowed to say that? Lightening hasn’t struck yet).  They need to know that you love them and need them.

The ironic thing is that I was going to write a prayer for those who are lonely.  I think a better idea is that I go call a friend…

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Conquest is an evil productive of almost every other evil both to those who commit and to those who suffer it.
I have been pondering this quote from C.S. Lewis most of the day.  It is easy to see how "conquest" negatively effects the conquered.  One only has to consider the effects of slavery and, in today's world, racism to see the effects of being "conquered."  The more interesting question is how does "conquest" negatively impact the "conqueror."  I think the answer is twofold.

First, the conqueror naturally has the illusion of control.  The sooner we rid ourselves of this illusion, the healthier we are.  We try to control so much of our lives; but how much of our lives can we actually control.  We can control our reactions to things -- sometimes.  But we almost never can control what happens to us. The sooner we relinquish this idea of control and begin to trust that Someone else is controlling our lives, the better off we are.  The "conqueror" has the illusion that she is in control of her life.  And she may...for a short time. Ultimately, however, she does not and when something happens that is out of her control, she will be devastated by the event.

The second way that a "conqueror" is negatively effected is because of his own insatiable, evil nature.  Once the conqueror completes his task, what does he do?  He begins to fulfill his base desires, whether it be desire for money, sex, or whatever.  The conqueror will be fulfilled...for a time.  Then once the conqueror understands that he is not being fulfilled, he begins to attempt to satisfy himself by conquering more.  It is the classic truth that, "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  The examples in history are plentiful.  Solomon had no enemies; he had "conquered" the entire world.  Yet, though he was the wisest man to ever live, he gave in to sexual desires that ultimately led him astray.  Why did Alexander the Great need to conquer the whole known world?  Why did he not just stop when he controlled Greece?  The same for Napoleon or Genghis Khan.

What is the relevance to our lives?  Figuratively, our society tells us,  "that history is written by the conqueror",  or, "to the victor goes the spoils."  Our society lauds Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and Genghis Khan.  It is quite different from the words of Jesus,
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." Matthew 5:3-9
What are you trying to control?  Have you given up on the illusion of control? 

Sunday, June 5, 2011


"At this very moment you and I are either committing [selfishness], or about to commit it, or repenting it."
Are you like me and think that C.S. Lewis is wrong about this?  I mean, I am not selfish, am I?  I mean, I think of other people.  I don't only think of myself.

But then I stop and think about my day.  Did I not get annoyed at a friend who called me because he was in trouble?  I got annoyed because I was busy working on my own stuff.  And didn't I get annoyed when my roommate ate the last of the cookies, because I bought those as a treat for myself?  And when I did I not get annoyed when my workout was interrupted?  Who was I thinking of in each situation?

The world teaches us that there is only one person who is going to look out after ourselves, i.e. there is only one who looks out for Number 1.  Selfishness evades our lives; it is so accepted that it is overlooked, or worse, lauded.  In fact, often we feel justified in being selfish.  "I need time for myself"; or "I worked hard for that, so I should enjoy it."

C.S. Lewis correctly warns us about this despicable, yet pervasive trait.  The Bible puts it this way:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4).
Instead, our example is to be Christ, who, though he was God, 
"emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:7-8).
At its core, selfishness is rooted in fear, specifically, that if I do not look out for myself, then no one will.  As Christians though, we can trust that God will look out after us.  Indeed, 
"no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly." Psalm 84:11

I am preaching to myself as much as anyone reading.  We need to be vigilant against selfishness.  Shift your focus over the next few days. See if there is any selfishness in your life.  I didn't think that there was any in my life, until I read this quote and watched myself.   Watch over the next few days.  What annoys you?  Who bugs you?  When are you thinking primarily of yourself and not the other person?  Are you failing to trust God in that area? Are you putting the interests of others ahead of yourself?

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Today's C.S. Lewis quote is (drum roll, please):
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
I have been intentionally avoiding this quote from Lewis.  I realize it is for a couple of different reasons. First, this may be the most famous quote from Lewis, and for good reason. It succinctly summarizes a complex theological issue -- Christian suffering.  Second, there has so much been written about this quote...Nevertheless, here are my thoughts.

First, how true this has been in my own life.  The last few years have been brutal.  I should have written that Brutal, with a capital "B".  Divorce, losing my job twice, starting a business, being cheated out of half a million dollars, having to close my business...I could keep going, but I won't.  At the same time, looking back, I understand that that is what it took for God to get my attention, and now I am in a better place than I have been in a long time, maybe ever.

Second, looking back, I also understand that prior to my suffering, God was trying to get my attention.  There were signs, and warnings.  They were not the flashing red lights of a divorce, or the megaphone of being robbed of your money.  But the warnings were there.  Mostly those warnings came in the form of my conscience.  Those whisperings also came from things my true friends would say.

There are several key points to make. First, if you are in the midst of a difficult time right now, rest assured that your suffering is not pointless.  You can trust that God has a great purpose for your pain. Second, our God is patient and "long-suffering", but He will not wait forever.  If you are traveling down the wrong path, God will give you warnings.  But because He is a jealous God, He will not allow you to leave anyone in the place He should rightfully have, even if that person is you.  Finally, if you are doing well right now, listen for His voice.  He may just be whispering to you...through His word, through the radio, through a friend, or through the sunset.  I can guarantee what He is saying too, "I love you...more than you can know."

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful..." Hebrews 10:23